Perchance the Fundamentalists knew something the rest of us didn’t when, a hundred or so years ago, they laid out the “fundamentals” of faith as a wall against the onrushing modern world.
According to the Wikipedia encyclopaedia, “The first formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. By the late 1910s, theological conservatives . . . came to be known as “fundamentalists.”
As I understand it, they saw Darwinism, modern biblical scholarship, and creeping secularism as a threat to the Christian faith and drew a line in the sand. The Roman Catholic Church, perhaps better organized to meet such challenges, had declared the infallibility of the Pope a quarter century earlier.
Now, one hundred years later, much of the world is awakening to the down side of the scientific/technological/corporate take-over. But let us not be hasty in lamenting the dark side of the great progress made in the past several hundred years. We talk about the good-old-days but I don’t know of anyone who wants to go back to pre-electricity, cars, planes, phones, television, computers, etc. etc. Without modern medicine I would be blind, if here at all. And the have-not world could certainly benefit from more of what our modern world can provide.
We are discovering, however, that all this “progress” comes at a price. We have created a global village, but have not kept pace by learning how to get along. We pour pollution into the air, ground and water. I remember reading years ago that our earth simply cannot now produce the quality of food it did a century ago. It’s all a familiar story that I, and practically everyone else, have been over many times.
And there are more dimensions to the bleakness “progress” has brought. The fundamentalists sensed early on that “religion” was in trouble. I’ve often spoken of the disappearance of “God” as a result of the mechanical view of the cosmos, which I refer to as a Newtonian Universe. Emily came upon a good book title that describes the situation, The Twilight of a Clockwork God, by J. D. Ebert. That’s what we are experiencing.
Not only has our modern world view cut us off from our traditional religious beliefs, it has isolated us from the whole spiritual or Mystery dimension. It has been very difficult for many moderns to grasp that there is a spiritual dimension, let alone one in which we “live and move and have our being.”
I keep returning to this theme because I’m talking to myself. I think I was a true child of the modern age by swallowing the “clockwork universe” hook, line and sinker. High School career questionnaires indicated I should be looking at something in the scientific field! It has been a lifetime journey to come to a deeper and broader understanding of things, and there is no end in sight. But I am aware that a new day of spiritual understanding is opening up.
I believe that the Fundamentalists are fundamentally wrong in looking back and trying to keep alive a pre-scientific understanding of faith. We must embrace, and integrate into our thinking and living, the best available knowledge the world can provide. And you had better believe that Newton’s laws work. If you drive a car you need to know that you can go around a corner only so fast, and twice the speed creates four times the energy – someone will correct me if I’m wrong. But there is more to the story.
About the same time that the Fundamentalists were getting organized, a little known man working in a patent office, found a crack in the mechanical picture of the Universe, evidence that didn’t fit into Newton’s laws. Einstein came up with the theory of relativity, and opened the door to a whole new dimension of reality that we are only beginning to comprehend.
I’m now about as far as I usually get with this theme. It’s time I tried a deeper plunge. But then that’s what many of us are trying. And that is what an evolving Universe is all about.